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Tori Sparks
Tori Sparks at The Bitter End in 2007
Background information
Origin Tennessee, U.S.
Genres Rock
Occupation(s) Singer-songwriter
Instruments Vocals
Years active 2002-present
Labels Glass Mountain Records
Platinum Plus

Tori Sparks (born December 5, 1983) is an American singer-songwriter known for her unconventional lyrics and her blending of folk, rock, and blues influences. Sparks has released four recordings: Tidewaters, Rivers + Roads, Under This Yellow Sun and The Scorpion in the Story. . The intensity of Tori’s recorded music contrasts with her often humorous approach to her live shows, which usually includes audience interaction. Tori is also known for her advocation of the DIY (Do-It-Yourself) work ethic.[1],[2]


Tori was born just outside of Chicago. Tori later moved to Sarasota, FL, and lived there until she graduated high school at the age of 17. During this time, she started classical training on the piano and cello, both eventually traded in favor of guitar at 13. Tori became heavily involved in theater and independent film in college. She attended Florida State University on a full academic scholarship, majoring first in Theater, then in Music. She graduated in three and a half years. It was during her time at Florida State that Tori’s focus shifted from theater to music. She started playing open mic nights and worked her way up to touring as a solo artist. It was during this time that she developed her trademark guitar and vocal style.[3]

Music career[edit]

Tidewaters EP[edit]

At the age of eighteen Tori recorded her first release, the Tidewaters EP. Different versions of three of the four songs on the EP (“One in a Million,” “Red Letter Day,” “When I Said”) would later appear on Tori’s first full-length album, Rivers + Roads.[4] The EP eventually attracted the attention of a small label based in Nashville, Platinum Plus Universal Records.[5] Sparks signed a developmental deal with PPUR in 2003.[6]

Rivers + Roads[edit]

While still in college, Tori recorded her first album, Rivers + Roads, in Nashville. Tony Migliore was the artistic producer on the album, as well as a Juilliard-educated pianist known for his work with Don McClean, KD Lang, and Chet Atkins. The album featured a number of Nashville session musicians, such as Kerry Marx, who has played with Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash.[7] This was the first and to date only time that backing vocals were included on any of Tori’s recordings. thumb|alt=River + Roads Cover art by Dan Helland Copyright 2009 During the post-production of Rivers + Roads, Tori toured in France and England. Upon returning to the United States, Sparks graduated from FSU and moved to Nashville in January 2005. Sparks was selected as a Unisong International Songwriting Contest Finalist for her politically-charged song "The Poster Child” later that year.[8]

Soon after the official release of Rivers + Roads, Tori broke with her record label, Platinum Plus. Tori started touring heavily in the United States. Radio and video airplay in the U.S., Belgium, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Ireland, France, and England resulted. These included Music Choice (on demand), as well as military and commercial reels. One of the eight months was devoted to The Feed Your Soul Guitar Project, a 27-city tour and folk art auction benefiting Oxfam America.[9]

The Feed Your Soul Guitar Project and tour attracted attention from The Village Voice[10], All Music Guide[11], Collected Sounds[12], Savannah Morning News, Media Search (Australia)[13], Blues in Britain Magazine (UK)[14], Northeast InTune Magazine[15], NBC, ABC[16], FOX and NPR affiliates.[17] Tori's debut music video, "Rivers + Roads,” was screened at the Flint Film Festival 2006[18], and was selected "Best Pop Video" at the Indie Gathering 2006.[19] Songs from Rivers + Roads were included on compilations such as KSYM-FM Camp Victory Compilation for the Troops (SCOOP KSYM-FM, 2007)[20], MSMF Multiple Sclerosis Music Fest 2006 Compilation CD (Montel Williams MS Foundation, 2006)[21], Canadian Music Week Best Unsigned Artists of 2006 (Tunetank, 2006)[22], and A Taste of Triple A #16 Compilation (A Taste of Triple A, 2006).[23]

Under This Yellow Sun[edit]

In 2007 Tori started work on her third release, co-produced and recorded with indie rock veteran David Henry (R.E.M., Ben Folds, Josh Rouse, Cowboy Junkies) as co-producer. The album features guest musicians Steve Bowman (Counting Crows), Aaron Sands (Jars of Clay), Pat Buchanan (Mary Chapin Carpenter, Dixie Chicks) John Deaderick (Patty Griffin, Lucinda Williams), Daniel Dennis (Prime Cut Records), Matthew Burgess (Brandi Carlile, Third Eye Blind), Joe Rathbone (Prime Cut Records) and producer David Henry.[24],[25]

During the production of the album, Tori continued to tour in the United States. Tori once again collaborated with Rivers + Roads director Wayne Hall to create the music video for “Cold War,” which was screened at the 2008 Florida Indie Film Jam.[26]

Under This Yellow Sun is the first release on Tori’s own record label (Glass Mountain Records) and publishing company (Hand Over Foot Publishing).[27] The album has been favorably reviewed by Relix[28], Harp[29], Maverick, Skope[30], The Nashville Scene[31], Popmatters [32], and many regional newspapers across the country. After breaking the Top 100 on the RIYL Weighted College Charts[33], the album was licensed by MTV, Lifetime, and the Oxygen Network for use in their 2008-2009 television seasons.[34]

A subsequent feature by XM Radio Unsigned[35] prompted Universal Music France to contact Sparks. Universal included the album’s first single “Cold War” on their double-disc compilation Country Vol 2., released internationally in March 2008. The compilation sold 30,000 copies in Europe.[36]

External video
Official music video for "Cold War"

Tori was featured on the April 2008 covers of City at Night Magazine[37] and Triangle Live[38] in conjunction with her participation in the Tin Pan South music festival and non-profit fund raiser in Nashville. “Cold War” was selected a Unisong International Songwriting Contest Finalist (2007), and was later included on the Paste Magazine New Music Sampler in June 2008 (Issue # 43). Other artists on the compilation included Elvis Costello, She and Him, and Nada Surf.[39]

The song “Caged Bird” from Under This Yellow Sun was selected one of the Top 12 DIY Downloads by Performing Songwriter magazine (2008)[40], and one of the Top 10 Tracks of 2007 by Cashville 411.[41]

The Scorpion in the Story (2009)[edit]

thumb|center|alt=The cover art for The Scorpion in the Story: Copyright 2009 Tori’s third full-length album, The Scorpion in the Story, was the second album she co-produced with David Henry. Players on the album include Steve Bowman (Counting Crows), Will Kimbrough (Rodney Crowell), Viktor Krauss (Lyle Lovett, Mindy Smith, Allison Krauss), Fats Kaplin (Mark Knopfler, Kevin Welch), and Barry Walsh (Gretchen Peters).

The Scorpion in the Story is the first of Tori’s album to be called a “concept album.” Each song is a true story written about an individual Tori met while on the road in 2008. There is a map of the cities where the songs were written inside the album art.

The Scorpion in the Story includes a French version of the song “Merry Go-Round,” (“Le Manege”), and was released on Glass Mountain Records in June 2009. The video for “Merry Go-Round” was filmed with the participation of the National Carousel Association and the City of Shelby[42], NC, as well as the Nashville Rollerderby Girls.

External video
Merry Go-Round Music Video

The album has been praised by Folkwax[43], Americana UK[44], many others[44], and was a Nashville Scene’s Critic’s Pick[45]. In July 2009, it broke the Top 100 on the U.S. Americana Radio Charts[46], and in April 2010, the Top 20 on the European Americana Charts[63]. The song “Tall Towers” from The Scorpion in the Story was featured on the Paste Magazine Music Sampler # 54 in July 2009[47], which also featured songs by Son Volt, Rhett Miller, and Dinosaur Jr. “Tall Towers” was also a highlighted track in the same month, Tori donated proceeds from the song “Leaving Side of Love” in the Campaign to Save Paste, a program launched by the magazine when it was in financial distress, and again to Paste’s Hurricane Relief Fund benefiting Wyclef Jean’s Yele organization [64][65]. Tori was the featured cover story for the inaugural issues of two magazines in April 2010: Dream Row Magazine[60], and bilingual English Spanish publication TN 4U [66].

Throughout the last few years, she has continued to tour heavily[49], sometimes playing as many as thirty shows in thirty days on the road. She has played at festivals such as Bele Chere in Asheville, RedGorilla in Austin, Folk Alliance in Memphis, Springing the Blues in Jacksonville, and others. Tori has appeared on the Woodsongs Old-Time Radio Hour with Rolling Stones pianist Chuck Leavell, NBC Channel 10 in Philadelphia, Lightning 100’s Nashville Sunday Night, and many other radio and television shows. Tori was one of the singers considered for the role of Arachne in the upcoming Broadway production of Spiderman, directed by Julie Taymor.

Other Releases[edit]

Tori released the digital-only Little Stories EP at the same time as Under This Yellow Sun. It includes four previously unreleased acoustic songs, as well as the original demo for the song “Under This Yellow Sun.”[48]

In late 2007, Tori released a Christmas single, “Hope for Me,”[49] as well as two behind the scenes videos: Tori Sparks with Producer David Henry: The Making of Under This Yellow Sun (Glass Mountain Records, 2007)[50] and Behind The Scenes: Screen Printing Madness with Tori Sparks (Glass Mountain Records, 2007).[51]

External video
Screen Printing Video

Tori has sung duets with D.W. DeHart on his song “Pale Sorghum Lo-Fi Blues” from Pale Sorghum Lo-Fi Blues (DeHorn Boys Music, 2007)[52], and with Jeff Kuykendall on his single “Mr. Bickle” from Wooden Music for a Plastic World.[53] (In Production, 2009). She co-wrote the song "Blackbird" with Caroline Brewer, which appears on Caroline's album "A Me-Shaped Hole".[54]


Tori has been part of benefit concerts on behalf of the National Federation of the Blind, F.A.C.E., the March of Dimes, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Operation Troop Aid, Project Cure, the One Campaign, and others. The Feed Your Soul Guitar Project’s auction of a guitar decorated by Tori raised awareness of the One Campaign and money for one of their partner organizations, Oxfam America.[55],[56]

She has given guest lectures on the music industry in English and in French in high schools and universities in Tennessee and Florida, and is the author of two educational courses for ProMusicU.[57]


Albums and EPs[edit]

Year Album Label
2003 Tidewaters EP Self-Released
2005 Rivers+Roads Platinum Plus Universal Records
2007 Little Stories EP (Digital Release Only) Glass Mountain Records
2007 Under This Yellow Sun Glass Mountain Records
2009 The Scorpion in the Story Glass Mountain Records


Year Video Label
2006 "Rivers+Roads" (music video) Platinum Plus Universal Records
2007 Behind The Scenes: Screen Printing Madness with Tori Sparks Glass Mountain Records
2007 Tori Sparks with Producer David Henry: The Making of Under This Yellow Sun Glass Mountain Records
2007 "Cold War" (music video) Glass Mountain Records
2009 "Merry Go-Round” (music video) Glass Mountain Records
In Production 2009 "Live at The Rutledge” Glass Mountain Records


Year Song Label
2005 "Trouble" (Rivers+Roads) Platinum Plus
2005 "Rivers+Roads" (Rivers+Roads) Platinum Plus
2007 "Cold War" (Under This Yellow Sun) Glass Mountain Records
2007 "Hope for Me" (Christmas Single Release Only) Glass Mountain Records
2009 "Tall Towers” (The Scorpion in the Story) Glass Mountain Records
2009 "Little Wrecking Ball” (The Scorpion in the Story) Glass Mountain Records


  • Paste Magazine New Music Sampler #54 (Paste Media Group, 2009)
  • Project Cure Compilation 2008 (Project Cure, 2008)
  • Paste Magazine New Music Sampler (Paste Media Group, 2008)
  • Country Vol. 2 (double-disc) (Universal Music France, 2008)
  • Moozikoo Best of Indies (Digital Release Only) (, 2008)
  • KSYM-FM Camp Victory Compilation for the Troops (SCOOP KSYM-FM, 2007)
  • MSMF Multiple Sclerosis Music Fest 2006 Compilation CD (Montel Williams MS Foundation, 2006)
  • Canadian Music Week Best Unsigned Artists of 2006 (Tunetank, 2006)
  • A Taste of Triple A #16 Compilation (A Taste of Triple A, 2006)


  • “Mr. Bickle” from Wooden Music for a Plastic World. (Duet with Jeff Kuykendall. In Production, 2009.)
  • "Blackbird" from A Me-Shaped Hole. (Written with Caroline Brewer. Independently released, 2008.)
  • “When You Walked Away” (Written with Rebecca Hosking, 2008)
  • “Pale Sorghum Lo-Fi Blues” from Pale Sorghum Lo-Fi Blues (Duet with D.W. DeHart. DeHorn Boys Music, 2007)

Record Labels[edit]

Tori’s first full length album Rivers + Roads was released by Platinum Plus Universal Records. She started her own publishing company, Hand Over Foot Publishing in 2005, and record label, Glass Mountain Records in 2007. Under This Yellow Sun and all subsequent releases have been on Glass Mountain. Tori’s other publishing company, Wry Toast Publishing, was started in 2008.


  • Top 12 DIY Downloads: Performing Songwriter magazine (July 2008) (“Caged Bird”)
  • Cashville 411: Top Ten Tracks of 2007 (“Caged Bird”)
  • Selection – 2008 Florida Music Festival Indie Film Jam (“Cold War”)
  • Finalist – 2007 Unisong International Songwriting Contest (“Cold War”)
  • Best Pop Video – 2006 Indie Gathering (“Rivers + Roads”)
  • Selection – 2006 Flint Film Festival (“Rivers + Roads”)
  • Recipient—2007 ASCAPlus Award
  • Recipient—2006 ASCAPlus Award
  • Recipient—2005 ASCAPlus Award
  • Finalist—2005 Unisong International Songwriting Contest (“The Poster Child”)


  1. ^ [1], Savvant Music Blog, “Tori Sparks Sets Fire in Austin” by Anny Randel (April 7th, 2008)
  2. ^ [2], “About,”
  3. ^ [3], Florida State Times, “Sparks’ Second Album Receiving Rave Reviews” by Jeffrey Seay (April-May 2008) Pg. 8 (Apr/May 2008 2008_04_FSTimes.pdf)
  4. ^ [4], All Music > Tori Sparks > Singles/EPs
  5. ^ [5], All Record Labels: Platinum Plus Universal Records
  6. ^ [6], “Rocker Tori Sparks Releases Hot New Single to Radio,” PRWeb Press Release by Platinum Plus, February 28, 2005
  7. ^ [7], Tony Migliore American Federation of Musicians Discography/Awards 2004-2005
  8. ^ [8], Unisong International Songwriting Contest Winners 2005-2007
  9. ^ [9], MSS Vision Featured Artist: Tori Sparks (January 4th, 2008)
  10. ^ The Village Voice “Voice Choice: Tori Sparks” by Joe McCombs (September 20th, 2006) Vol 38 Pg 91
  11. ^ [10], All Music Guide, “Rivers + Roads” by J. McCombs (July 2005)
  12. ^ [11], Collected Sounds “Album Review: Rivers + Roads by Tori Sparks” by Amy Lotsberg, (August 12th, 2005)
  13. ^ [12], Media Search Australia “Tori Sparks – Rivers + Roads” by Carmine Pascuzzi (October 5th, 2005)
  14. ^ [13], Blues in Britain Magazine (UK) “Women in the Blues” by Jon Taylor (Vol. 1, Issue # 42)
  15. ^ [14], Northeast InTune Magazine “Tori Sparks: Album Review” by Brooke Welu (October 2005)
  16. ^ [15], Tori Sparks Live on ABC 22/ FOX 45 (January 22nd 2008)
  17. ^ [16], Interview with Michael Stock on WRLN, Miami (May 24th 2004 - Archives)
  18. ^ [17], Flint Film Festival 2006 Festival Selections
  19. ^ [18], Indie Gathering 2006: Winners
  20. ^ [19], KSYM-FM Camp Victory Compilation for the Troops (SCOOP KSYM-FM, 2007)
  21. ^ [20], MSMF Multiple Sclerosis Music Fest 2006 Compilation CD (Montel Williams MS Foundation, 2006)
  22. ^ [21], Canadian Music Week Best Unsigned Artists of 2006 (Tunetank, 2006) From Tori Sparks Discography
  23. ^ [22], A Taste of Triple A #16 Compilation (A Taste of Triple A, 2006)
  24. ^ [23], “Credits: Under This Yellow Sun album insert; also listed under “Members – Studio” from
  25. ^ [24], All Music > Tori Sparks > Discography > Main Albums
  26. ^ [25], FMF Indie Film Jam Schedule 2008
  27. ^ [26], Glass Mountain Records, Artist: Tori Sparks
  28. ^ [27], Relix magazine “Tori Sparks – Under This Yellow Sun (Glass Mountain)” by Nancy Dunham (October 2007 - Archives)
  29. ^ [28], Harp Magazine “Reviews – CD Reviews – Tori Sparks – Under This Yellow Sun” by Jeff Tamarkin (December 2007) Pg. 15
  30. ^ [29], Skope Magazine "Features: Tori Sparks" by Bill Kopp (December 3rd, 2007)
  31. ^ [30], The Nashville Scene “Critics Pick: Tori Sparks” by Bill Hurt (April 3rd, 2008) Pg. 31
  32. ^ [31], PopMatters, “Tori Sparks – Under This Yellow Sun” by Jason MacNeil (November 16th 2007)
  33. ^ [32], RIYL Weighted College Charts: Week of September 19th 2007
  34. ^ [33], The Daily Kenoshan, “Nashville Rock 'n' Soul Chanteuse Tori Sparks to Play Gateway Technical College” by Lisa Loring (October 2nd, 2008)
  35. ^ [34], XM Radio Unsigned “Featured Tracks: Most Alone by Tori Sparks”
  36. ^ [35], “Universal France Compilation Featuring Tori Sparks Sells 25,000 Copies in First Weeks” by eMedia Wire (July 18th, 2008)
  37. ^ [36], City at Night Magazine, “Tori Sparks: Nashville’s New Shade of Blues” by Joyce Arnold, (Vol. 2, Issue 5 - April 2008) Cover Story, Continued on Pgs 10, 11, 13
  38. ^ [37], The Herald Sun Triangle Live “Sparks Takes DIY Approach to Music Business” by Dawn Baumgartner (April 11th-17th, 2008) Cover Story, continued on Pg D4
  39. ^ [38], Paste Magazine New Music Sampler (Paste Media Group, June 2008)
  40. ^ [39], Performing Songwriter “Top 12 DIY Downloads: Tori Sparks” by Editor Mare Wakefield (June 2008)
  41. ^ [40], Cashville411 Top 10 Tracks of 2007
  42. ^ [41]The Shelby Star "Tori Sparks Makes Video in Shelby" May 14, 2009 by Graham Cawthon Pg. 8
  43. ^ [42] Folkwax "Words Fail" June 4, 2009 Sparks, Tori - The Scorpion In The Story by Evert Wilbrink
  44. ^ [43] Music News Nashville "TOP ALBUM REVIEW: The Scorpion in the Story - Tori Sparks" May 5, 2009 by Jenny Delamotte
  45. ^ [44]Nashville Scene: Critics Pick "Tori Sparks CD Release Party: Firestarter" June 4, 2009 by Jewly Hight Pg. 26
  46. ^ [45] Americana Terrestrial Radio Chart (July 12, 2009) by The Americana Music Association
  47. ^ [46]Paste Magazine: Issue # 54 "Stuart Murdoch" Sampler (July 4, 2009) Track # 17 by Paste Media Group
  48. ^ [47], Little Stories EP (Digital Release Download Site) (Glass Mountain Records, 2007)
  49. ^ [48], On The Horizon Radio Network “Episode 269: Playlist” posted by John Anderson
  50. ^ [49], Tori Sparks with Producer David Henry: The Making of Under This Yellow Sun (Glass Mountain Records, 2007)
  51. ^ [50], Behind The Scenes: Screen Printing Madness with Tori Sparks (Glass Mountain Records, 2007)
  52. ^ [51], D.W. DeHart website
  53. ^ [52], Hodge and Podge and the Polyester Goo by Jeff Kuykendall “Mr. Bickle” (Track 3)
  54. ^ [53], Music City Unsigned “Introducing Caroline Brewer” by Johnny T. (October 20th, 2008 - Click on “News > Caroline Brewer”)
  55. ^ [54], Tim’s Befuddled Universe “”Tori Sparks Auctions Folk Art Guitar to Benefit Benefit Oxfam America”by Tim Null (May 18th 2006)
  56. ^ [55], Athens Banner-Herald, “Sparks’ Career Shines on Its Own” by Beth Jones (September 12th, 2008)
  57. ^ [56], ProMusicU: Advisory Board

External links[edit]

Category:1983 births Category:American singer-songwriters Category:Female rock singers Category:American rock guitarists Category:American female guitarists Category:Living people Category:Florida State University alumni